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It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life Paperback – September 1, 2001
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Absolutely absorbing. -- Denver Post
Among cancer survivors, it is known simply as The Book. -- USA Today, May 22, 2002
Fascinating. -- New York Times
Gripping. -- St. Petersburg Times
Inspiring. -- People
It's not about the bike, or about the sport. It's about the soul. -- Cincinnati Enquirer
Stirring. -- Buffalo News
About the Author
The inspiring journey of world-class hero Lance Armstrong, from the dark night of advanced cancer through his dramatic victory in the 1999 Tour de France, and beyond. In 1996, twenty-four-year-old Lance Armstrong was ranked the number-one cyclist in the world. But that October, "The Golden Boy of American Cycling" was sidelined by excruciating pain. Tests revealed advanced testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain. His chance for recovery was as low as twenty percent. Armstrong embarked on the most aggressive form of chemotherapy available and underwent surgery to remove cancer that the treatments couldn't reach. Five months after his diagnosis, he resumed training under a cloud of uncertainty, and the path back to competition wasn't smooth. It took a ride with friends through the mountains of North Carolina for Armstrong to rediscover his genuine love of the sport, and to rededicate himself to its pursuit. Scarred physically and emotionally, Lance Armstrong considered his cancer "a special wake-up call," one that crystallized for him the blessings of good health, family, friends, and marriage. In October 1999, just months after his astonishing triumph in the Tour, his wife, Kristin, gave birth to their son, Luke David Armstrong. Filled with the nutritional, physical, emotional, and spiritual details of his recovery, It's Not About the Bike traces the wondrous journey of one of America's greatest athletes to a singularly inspiring appreciation of life lived to the fullest.
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Initially, what jumps out is Lance's scrappy writing style. It's refreshing; I loved that he was unafraid to identify the "father figures" in his life for what they were and were not. His devotion to his mom is pure and true. You can hear it in his narrative. His mom should think about writing a book about her own strength, tenacity, and dedication to being a great mom under very difficult circumstances.
The second striking aspect is the man's amazing anatomy. His physiology and his tolerances for pain are unique. It doesn't hurt that he seemingly manufactures less lactic acid than the rest of us poor sods. However, I was struck by his quest for pain as a pure way to leave all the peripheral interruptions behind and to really focus on his job. That is the one aspect that has stayed with me. One can program one's thinking to see pain as focal point rather than a debilitating distraction. What a powerful and liberating feeling.
His frank and story of the surgery and chemotherapy are gut wrenching (literally!) As well, the reader definitely wants the happy ending and is thus rewarded in this biography. His personal reflections of his emotional, physical and spiritual transformations after the cancer motivate this reader to cheer all the more. Good on ya Lance! You make July mornings at 6:00am (PDT) must see tv in this household.
I think there is a wide cross-section of readers who will find many parts of this book totally absorbing. As for me, I love reading about cycling tactics and the drama that unfolds in and around the pro peloton. There are many details about cycling in this book. (Though, of his TDF victories, only the first is described in full. The 2000 tour is described in an "Encore" chapter.) Among the most interesting to me were the few pages about a heated topic that is rarely addressed by the parties involved -- Armstrong's sponsors -- which companies vowed unconditional support, and which company all but abandonned.
Though I didn't expect to find details about cancer and its treatment as interesting as the cycling details, that part of the story is among the most inspirational. It provides another example of Armstrong's intensely competitive nature and astonishing capacity to remain confident in the face of unthinkable pain, suffering, and adversity. In Armstrong's narrative, the story reads like that of some insane, year-long time-trial, cooked up by TDF organizers just to see if Lance will crack.
Finally, perhaps Armstrong's greatest strength as an autobiographer is his willingness to candidly describe his weakest and most desperate hours.
The book is pretty well balanced between describing Lance's cycling and his difficult battle with testicular cancer. There is no doubt that the book is part of an overall effort to capitalize on Lance's amazing Tour de France win in 1999 and after, but the sometimes angry, sometimes cocky Lance may be a little difficult to understand or tolerate by some.
Lance acknowledges a great deal of good fortune in surviving cancer but does so rather disingenuously. The fact of the matter is that over 99% of the population would have never had the instant access that Lance had to specialists all over the country who as it turned made all the difference in his recovery. In addition, Lance was quite fortunate in that a bike store owner in Texas took Lance under his arm when he was very young and developed his cycling ability virtually from the ground up. It is vintage Lance Armstrong when he has falling out with his patron just as he is starting to gain some national recognition of his cycling talent. On several ocassions Lance benefited from the right guy entering his life at the right time to provide the right kind of help with his cycling. It did not have to happen that way.
Some may find the book inspirational and it is to a degree. Others may see just how thin is the thread that separates success and even life itself from failure and even death.